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ASU students spread the word about helping disaster relief

Symbols of Relief, Dillon Johnson
April 30, 2015

Devastation from the recent earthquake in Nepal has brought the need for more efficient global disaster relief to the forefront. But what is the best way to help?

Graphic design students in Arizona State University’s visual communication studio IV course want to spread the message: Despite what some may think, cash donations are actually best.

They designed public service announcements, and four of those students were among six total student finalists from across the country in the 2015 Public Service Announcements for International Disasters (PSAid) contest. The annual competition is sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development Center for International Disaster Information (USAID CIDI), which educates the public about the best ways to help survivors of disaster events.

Those ASU students are:

• Katherine McNamara, first place, broadcast, “Donation Machine” (see video at end of story)

• Victoria Howell, third place, broadcast, “Myth vs. Fact” (see video at end of story)

• Dillon Johnson, first place, print, “Symbols of Relief”

• Stephanie McNicol, third place, print, “Make the Biggest Impact”

As is evidenced by its name, “Myth vs. Fact,” Howell wanted her video to dispel certain myths about disaster-relief donations.

“Something like a pack of water bottles that costs very little when purchased can end up costing a couple hundred dollars once it is sent, transported, received and distributed,” all activities that cost money, she said.

McNicol enjoyed participating in the competition not just for the opportunity to inform the public about disaster relief, but because “it's a great experience for [us] students … we treat this like a client project. We get to Skype with the people involved in the PSAid competition and ask questions.” 

The course is co-taught by Lisa Peña, instructor in the Design School, part of ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; John Mahon, faculty associate in the Design School; and Jarred Elrod, a graphic designer with ASU Wellness.

"My colleagues and I are extremely proud of our students," said Peña. "In the past, we have consistently won in the print and/or video categories for PSAid. However, this year, due to the recent events in Nepal, our students have gained a better understanding of how their work can affect communities near and far."

In its 10th year, PSAid has generated hundreds of broadcast and print public-service announcements about practicing “Smart Compassion” in support of international disaster relief. A core tenet of Smart Compassion is that monetary donations to relief organizations do more good for disaster survivors with greater speed and sensitivity than do unsolicited material donations.

“For the past decade, the PSAid competition has increased awareness among Americans that monetary donations to relief organizations provide the greatest help to survivors,” said Juanita M. Rilling, director of USAID CIDI. “The winners of this year’s competition have done a masterful job of illustrating that ‘Cash is Best.’”

The winning PSAs will be distributed through broadcast and cable outlets nationwide. All entries from this year and from prior years may be viewed on the PSAid competition website.

Want to know how specifically to help in Nepal? Visit the USAID CIDI website.